When God Chooses to Convert the Heathen, He Will!

I was reading a short biographical sketch of the father of modern missions, William Carey. Before leaving the Harvey Lane Baptist Church in Leicester, England, he was once at a ministers meeting in 1787 when he decided to raise the question of the responsibility of the church to reach the world with the Gospel. Now, just a little back story, Carey was a particular Baptist minister who was in a Calvinistic group of Baptists who were currently enthralled with a fight over hyper-Calvinism! Hyper-Calvinism was the belief that because of the doctrines of Calvinism, men were not to use means to reach the World because God had already predestined the Salvation of his chosen. To use means was a waste of one’s life and efforts and basically an undermining of God. After Carey rose this question, the renowned Baptist minister and writer of his day, John Ryland Sr., allegedly stood up and proclaimed to Carey, “Young man, sit down! When God pleases to convert the heathen, He will do without your aid or mine!” (Though his son, a later coworker with Carey in the Baptist Missionary Society, claimed it never happened). Sadly today, whether consciously or subconsciously, many Christians, churches, and yes, even preachers and missionaries have started thinking about our God in this way. Either through buying into hyper-Calvinism or subconsciously thinking that God will save those that he will save, and we need not interfere in our lives. I’d like to take a moment to show you the Biblical fallacies in Ryland’s statements to encourage you to see your responsibility in reaching the world with the Gospel and to encourage you to find your place in World Evangelism, whether as goer or sender.

  1. Young man, sit down!

This was the first part of Ryland’s statement and a command towards Carey to sit down on the thoughts of evangelizing the world. Ryland’s thinking was that Carey had no reason to be on the move for the needs of the world. The only problem was that Carey had a command already given in scripture that prohibited him from sitting down because he had been commanded by the scripture to not only get up but rather to GO!

‘Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. ‘ – Matthew 28:18-20
(This was actually the text of Carey’s farewell sermon to Harvey Lane Baptist Church when headed to India)

  1. When God pleases to convert the heathen…

The second part of his statement was no better or truthful. He rose the fact that in his opinion that the heathen were unreached because God had not chosen to reach them. Though this may be a good, logical, hyper-Calvinistic statement, it isn’t in line with scripture. The Bible tells us that God desires that all would come to repentance; therefore, if he desires for all to come, it pleases God for all to come.

‘The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. ‘ – 2 Peter 3:9

  1. He will do without your aid or mine!

So this one seems very logical and even seems like it is lifting up God, but really it is attacking the way God operates. Though God could very well reach the world without using people, he chooses not to because He gets more glory using broken vessels to achieve his purpose rather than doing it all himself. Also, this is part of his love toward us that He would get us in on His master plan to reach the world with the Gospel of Christ!

‘For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence. ‘ – 1 Corinthians 1:21-29

We see through these three simple sets of verses that Ryland’s statements were completely wrong and not from scripture! The sad thing is that many today still believe similar lies and sit idle, thinking their life is not desired by God to be used for the sake of evangelizing the world! Today, do you see that God wants to use you? Though he could do it all Himself, He wants to use you! Are you willing to be used, either as a goer (going to the mission field) or a sender, (facilitating missionaries to go to the field) for the cause of the Gospel of Christ?